One of the best poem

Here’s another poem from Songs of Love and Grammar, which I present today to fix in mind a problem construction often encountered.

The one

I’m dating a girl who likes moderation
but sometimes praises without reservation.
She has a cute way to show you your place:
she starts off partway, then slips you the ace.

I cooked her some dinner on our first date.
“That’s one of the best meal I ever ate!”
She said that. One best! A class of one!
Such flattery! And we’d just begun.

We went to a movie – the choice was clear:
“It’s one of the best film of the year,”
she said. “On that, the critics agree.”
(They’d all gone for this one? That’s news to me!)

As we walked back, the weather was just sublime:
“It’s one of the nicest night in quite a time.”
It was clear in all that she had to say
that she wanted to take things all the way.

At evening’s end, she gave me my throne:
“one of the best lover I’ve ever known.”
“Lover,” not “lovers” – now, how do you do:
on the list of the best, there’s no number two!

It looks like the matter is when, not whether,
we’ll be vowing to share the future together.
Her level of commitment is plain to see:
“You’re one of the only guy for me.”

This one is similar to the false concord issue, and it’s a very common
thing to see. The analytically “correct” way to put something like this – and the way that seems more natural to at least some of us – is to say, for instance, one of the best lovers. That is, there’s a set of people who are the best lovers, and the person in question is one of them. And, indeed, even people who would say or write one of the best lover would, I think, write one of them rather than one of him for short. But because the subject of the sentence is singular, and we have one as well, there’s a certain magnetism of singularity, shall we say. The speaker stays focused on the one person and uses one of the best as though it were a one-of-the-best or a top-quality to modify lover. Frankly, I’d still rather use the plural there – it just makes more sense to me.

Not that many of us are necessarily all that used to hearing the phrase in the
first place.

Make sure to visit Lulu.com to buy Songs of Love and Grammar for the word nerds in your life!

One response to “One of the best poem

  1. But don’t get your subjects confused. As Bill Walsh points out on Blogslot, http://theslot.blogspot.ca/2009/03/dont-be-one-of-those-people.html , while you are not one of those person who does this, you are also not one of those people who does this. In a sentence of this type, there is a set of people who do this, and you are one of them; it is not that you are one of those people (an unspecified set of people) and you do this. You only know who “those people” are because they are explained with the modifier who do this. Thus one of [those people [who do this]] and not one [of those people] who does this, which would be the same as one who does this of those people, which is just not quite right.

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